NU was a moniker that Don Cherry employed as the title of the cooperative group that he initiated with Edward Blackwell, Carlos Ware, Nana Vasconcelos and myself in the mid 80's. It actually means “now” in Swedish which is where he created a second home with his wife Moki who was Swedish.
The word “now” is probably the most appropriate description of where Don resided; very much an improviser in the now. In this group, everyone functioned in the now and we moved through and into the music dependent on what everyone decided to do; aural cues were often the currency of the moment. It was a great band with the hydra-like percussion section of Blackwell and Nana.
They played so well together and created what often sounded like a true drum ensemble with many more than two members. Carlos Ward, with whom I worked in Edward Blackwell’s group, is an important composer as well as a wonderful improviser. His pieces formed the backbone of this group.
Don was the leader on stage just by the nature of his presence and playful nature; we would often take musical cues from him while making sudden turns into songs that were sometimes unfamiliar to some of us, but we played them anyway. Additionally, he and Nana did a lot of vocalizing in this band which lent the music a more immediate humanity. We also had a lot of fun traveling, hanging out and dealing with the vagaries of the road.